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Freight visibility through data

March 26, 2020
Technology and data are at the forefront of how fleets share lanes and reduce empty miles on the road.

This is part three in a four-part series on reducing empty miles. Read part one and two here. 

When looking to share lanes, fleets have to be aware of shippers’ requirements. Finding the right load starts with getting accurate data, Hackl said. LaneHub validates the data it receives from its network of users. Users can then run algorithms to quickly identify opportunities and drill down into shipment-level details. “The software identifies matches at a high level, but you can filter those down,” Hackl said. “It helps you get to the answers quickly, and then you can have meaningful conversations about how to take action.”

XPO offers XPO Connect, a digital freight marketplace that provides end-to-end visibility into the capacity cycle, including backhauls and roundtrips. Carriers use the Drive XPO mobile app to look for national and local loads on the platform. “Drivers can post available trucks, and XPO Connect will locate load opportunities,” Wilkerson said. “The digital, self-service dashboard captures preferences that help inform the business analytics generated by XPO Connect for shippers and carriers.”

The algorithms in XPO Connect crunch numbers in real time to match under-utilized assets to freight, Wilkerson said. He explained that the technology uses machine learning to capture current and future capacity, the prior load’s date of drop-off, when the truck becomes empty, and other data that completes the picture, such as a carrier’s historical patterns, backhauls, preferences, and similarities to the load profile.

A lot of shippers like doing business with private and dedicated fleets because of the predictability they offer. “Private fleets are in the area making our own outbound deliveries anyway, so we tend to be more predictable picking up loads to return home with,” Roberts said.

Plus, Frito-Lay has an advantage because it utilizes high-cube equipment so that shippers can ship 10% more of their freight on Frito-Lay trailers compared to a standard freight box, Roberts said.

LaneHub, which was recently acquired by Transplace, focuses on private and dedicated fleets. “A lot of times, the shippers encourage the dedicated fleet to fill miles. They’re doing that with load boards, but it isn’t always driver-friendly,” Hackl explained.  He said LaneHub focuses on long-term relationships, so carriers find consistent loads and work to create additional efficiencies. 

When filling miles with loads that aren’t their own, fleets want to minimize the risk of any disruptions that occur.  “Freight visibility builds confidence in executing the backhaul,” Jackson said. 

Ryder experts monitor route progress against scheduled available times to ensure that there are no disruptions that will cause missed backhaul pickups, Belter said. “We also identify alternate sources of capacity in case backhaul capacity is delayed for any reason,” he said. 

While LaneHub discourages carriers from coming into the company for short-term matches on a given day, DAT Solutions offers several options for drivers and fleets looking for loads. Eileen Hart, a spokeswoman for DAT Solutions, said the vast majority of its carrier customers do not haul contract freight and get almost all of their loads from brokers and 3PLs. 

“That gives them a lot of flexibility, but also introduces a great deal of unpredictability,” Hart explained. “We tend to think of the load board as a tool for finding the freight that you need right now, but it’s also a planning and research tool that lets you anticipate your next moves.”

DAT also offers a truckload freight marketplace. The DAT Load Board for Truckers mobile app has a feature called “Get Me Home” that automatically searches for freight based on drivers’ current locations that will take them back to their home base, she explained. 

DAT’s TriHaul offering searches for alternative routes that will get drivers home with a higher average rate per loaded mile. “Our Hot Market Map also shows where carriers will have negotiating advantage, so you can plan your routes with the goals of hitting those hot markets and protecting your profit on the trip home,” Hart said. 

Another motivating factor

Filling empty miles not only increases profits but also benefits the environment. Sustainability overall is a big priority for Frito-Lay, and PepsiCo is committed to reducing its absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030, Roberts said. “A big way we are working toward this goal are the actions we are taking in our fleet,” she said. “Eliminating trucks on the road and miles driven reduces fuel usage and minimizes our environmental impact.”

XPO’s Wilkerson said environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly important to shippers. “It’s painful to think of a truck generating emissions mile after mile with no freight,” he explained. “Finding quality capacity for our customers is always the primary goal, but income opportunities for our carriers and a smaller carbon footprint are definitely strong motivations as well.”   

About the Author

Mindy Long

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